Zelensky issues war red lines ahead of crunch talks with Putin ‘Not all bridges destroyed’

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY has spelled out conditions before cracking a peace deal with Vladimir Putin, a news report has claimed.

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Zelensky, 44, said that Russia must withdraw to their pre-invasion position for a deal while speaking to a London Think tank. He said that any peace deal with Russia would depend on Russian forces pulling back to their pre-invasion positions.

Speaking to a London think tank, Volodymyr Zelensky said that was the minimum that his country could accept.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged against any negotiations with Russia on terms that “give credence to the Kremlin’s false narrative for the invasion”, according to No 10.

Mr Zelensky said he was the leader of “Ukraine, not a mini-Ukraine”. But he did not mention Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russia is currently battling to take full control of the city of Mariupol.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Zelensky issues war red lines ahead of crunch talks with Putin (Image: Getty Images)

Volodymyr Zelensky

He said that Russia must withdraw to pre-invasion position for a deal (Image: Getty Images)

Speaking at an event hosted by the Chatham House think tank, Zelensky said arrangements were needed for discussions to “stop the killing”, with “diplomatic channels” used to regain Ukraine’s territories.

He said that the prerequisite for this would be “regaining the situation as of February 23”.

He said: “They have to fall back. In that situation we will be able to start discussing things normally.”

Mr Zelensky said there could be no question of Russia holding on to territory it has conquered since it invaded Ukraine.

READ MORE: Panicking Putin plans national call-up after Ukraine losses

Volodymyr Zelensky

Mr Zelensky said he was the leader of “Ukraine, not a mini-Ukraine”. (Image: Getty Images)

He said: “I was elected by the people of Ukraine as president of Ukraine, not as president of a mini Ukraine of some kind. This is a very important point.”

Mr Zelensky called for the resumption of diplomatic dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.

He said: “Despite the fact that they destroyed all our bridges, I think not all the bridges are yet destroyed, figuratively speaking.”

Russia, for its part, has described that process as being in a “state of stagnation”.

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Vladimir Putin

Russia is currently battling to take full control of the city of Mariupol. (Image: Getty Images)

Vladimir Putin

Russia, for its part, has described that process as being in a “state of stagnation”. (Image: Getty Images)

On Friday, a further 50 civilians including 11 children were evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Russia and Ukraine said, in an operation coordinated by the UN and Red Cross.

More are believed to still be trapped in the Soviet-era tunnels and bunkers beneath the sprawling factory.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the operation had been slowed by fighting and what she called “provocations”.

She said evacuations would resume on Saturday.

Russia had earlier announced a daytime ceasefire at the plant for three days, starting Thursday.

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William Murphy

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